The Social Proof Before the Pudding

The Consumer NZ roadshow

The pudding

The pudding

This month, Derek Bonnar (General Manager – Business) and I hit the road (well more the air) in New Zealand. From Christchurch to Wellington to Auckland, we engaged with leading professionals from more than 40 leading brands. It was real privilege to represent Consumer and explore the increasing influence of social proof on the consumer journey.

Starting out with the well-known 14th century proverb “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, we tested the notion that the “SOCIAL proof of the pudding is BEFORE the eating!” So to fully test something, do you actually need to experience if for yourself? Well not necessarily! Perhaps now you will never test it if other consumers or experts that you rate don’t rate it.

A power brand in New Zealand

Consumer is a truly independent, not-for-profit, membership based organisation established back in 1959. The brand plays an important role in New Zealand to help both empower consumers and enhance businesses. Consumer is on a mission to ensure “a fair deal for all New Zealand consumers” (and reduce the estimated $4.7 billion or 1 in 6 ‘bad purchases’ every year).

In June 2015, Ipsos rated Consumer in the Top 15 most influential brands in New Zealand (based on leading edge, trustworthiness, engagement, citizenship and presence). Consumer are in great company, with global powerhouses like Google, Facebook, YouTube and Apple together with home grown success stories including Trade Me, Air New Zealand, TVNZ and The Warehouse.

Digital dependence is the real deal

Every wave of technological innovation has triggered new consumer expectations and behaviours. With hyper connectivity and transparency, consumers have unprecedented power. This unprecedented power = choice + voice! And if you believe the core role of marketing is to drive business growth, then that makes digital disruption the new normal.

So habits have changed and digital dependence is real. Most people are now 5 x more reliant on digital than 5 years ago when it comes to making purchase decisions. Stop and think about how you research and buy products and services! Meanwhile traditional ‘advertising’ channels may lack the trust and influence of perceived independent channels.

most trusted endorsement

most trusted endorsement

Time to leverage endorsement marketing

In a world full of clutter, social proof helps consumers both fast track and de-risk their purchase decisions. This means that people don’t want to waste time and don’t want to make mistakes! That’s why the use of an independent endorsement is especially potent where elements of the experience are intangible (which these days is just about every category).

The perceived value of an independent endorsement is directly correlated with the source credibility. This source credibility is based on both expertise (i.e. knowledge) and trustworthiness (i.e. unbiased). Most importantly, the 3rd party must have their reputation at stake. In New Zealand, Consumer is the most trusted endorsement with daylight well back in second!

Furthermore, the perceived similarity with the independent endorsement has a significant impact on effectiveness. This flows from awareness (‘I know you’) to familiarity (‘I relate to you’) to likeability (‘I adore you’ … well, sort of)! Again, Consumer lead the way with 90.5% awareness and an impressive 41.6% actively referring to Consumer services.

The days of bluffing it are over

It’s super important to remember that social proof can have both a positive and negative effect. Consumers have choice + voice so there is nowhere to hide!

Purpose driven brands are all about alignment between what you ‘do’ and what you ‘say’. This is about more humanistic companies and more conscious capitalism. The days of bluffing it are over. You can no longer fake it … it has to be earned. So here’s a list of nine themes to help ignite the ever growing power of social proof for you and your brand:

  • Be amazing and be consistent
  • Be authentic and be transparent
  • Recognise perfection is not the goal
  • Embrace and do not sanitise the negative
  • Focus on visually engaging ideas
  • Make it super easy for your consumers
  • Utilise multiple forms of social proof
  • But make it relevant … don’t over do it
  • Prioritise for ‘lower likelihood’ products

If you’d like to find out more about the Consumer “social proof of the pudding is before the eating” roadshow or snap up a copy of the endorsement marketing whitepaper, please let me know.